Talent acquisition specialists from Riot Games and Liberty IT explain their approach to recruiting and retaining early-stage talent.
Attracting early-stage talent is not something that employers can afford to be lackadaisical about. If recent surveys on the relationships between employers and Gen Z talent can be believed, young people entering the labour market have high expectations for working culture, salary and job security.
A survey from last year by Aon and HPC of 34 large companies found that 44pc of respondents said retention was the biggest challenge they faced in their early-career programmes.
The graduates of today are coping with a global economy in flux, inflation and a housing crisis. They know what employers can offer so if a company wants to focus on attracting early-stage talent they must have a very clear idea of why jobseekers should choose their workplace over another.
The companies that do well in terms of hiring and retaining graduates are tuned in to these concerns. They are also good at reaching out to young talent – be it through social media campaigns, university grad fairs or paid internship offers.
Riot Games and Liberty IT both were both among the Best Workplaces in Tech according to Great Place to Work and they place a strong emphasis on hiring early-career workers. Communicating with graduates and making sure they offer them a worthwhile career is key, they say.
Recruiters need to think outside the box
Valeria Bandino, senior manager of talent acquisition at Riot Games in Dublin, says employers should “look beyond traditional work experience and focus on lateral skills that may be relevant to the position” when they are assessing early-stage talent.
“For example, a candidate may have demonstrated leadership or tech skills through volunteer work experience.”
Hiring people with little to no experience but the same expectations and rights as any other employee requires a little bit of leeway on the part of the employer. But if they are willing to invest in developing talent they may well be rewarded with loyal employees long term.
‘We have designed the selection stage to reflect how we work in Liberty IT, where there are group exercises where applicants work together to solve problems, and individual exercises focused on reviewing a code sample or designing a web application’
– GEMMA BOYD
As for how Bandino’s team assesses early-career prospective hires, she says they use behavioural interviewing techniques which “focus on past behaviours as predictors of future performance and help identify key competencies such as problem-solving, teamwork and communication skills”.
“We find work sample tests and assessments to be particularly useful for candidates who lack traditional work experience.”
Gemma Boyd, senior talent acquisition specialist at Liberty IT, agrees with this approach.
“We run a CV free application process in our entry-level hiring where all applicants are shortlisted for selection stage on fundamental requirements for the role. For example, for a graduate software engineer role, all applicants who have qualified or are in the final year of a STEM-related degree, are shortlisted for the selection stage.”
“We have designed the selection stage to reflect how we work in Liberty IT, where there are group exercises where applicants work together to solve problems, and individual exercises focused on reviewing a code sample or designing a web application,” she says.
Internships, learning and development
Liberty IT, which has offices in Belfast and Dublin, runs a programme called TechStart every year for early-career workers.
“The TechStart programme is designed to give our entry-level joiners the skills – both technical and non-technical – to have a great career in technology whether they join us from their STEM studies or are undertaking a career change,” says Boyd.
But it is not the only route to a career in Liberty IT, she adds.
Riot Games also has an established internship programme, which Bandino says is “specifically designed to provide meaningful experiences” to interns and help them develop a better understanding of the gaming industry.
“We appreciate that talent at the very early stages of their career thrive on feedback so we ensure they receive regular inputs, ongoing coaching and mentoring to help them develop a sense of autonomy and accountability for their work,” she says.
Riot Games also has a thorough onboarding and L&D programme that prepares its interns for full-time employment opportunities if their career continues with the company or if they choose to continue elsewhere.
According to Bandino, “This has been an extremely valuable programme for bringing in talent into the business and retaining it.”
Reputation is key
It’s clear from both Bandino and Boyd that communication and having a good reputation as employers is important when it comes to attracting people starting out in their careers.
Do they liaise with education providers and universities to attract talent? Boyd says Liberty IT’s communications and marketing team works to provide “regular and relevant digital content” to potential applicants so that when the company does advertise an opportunity its brand is recognised among potential applicants.
Riot Games partners with universities and colleges, participates in careers fairs and even offers guest lectures as a way of building relationships with early-career talent.
Bandino says this outreach method is a good way of ensuring that any questions students have about working in the gaming industry are answered and they know what types of opportunities are out there.
“It’s important for us to be transparent and ensure our potential candidates have a clear understanding of the role before applying,” Bandino says.
For early-stage candidates, company culture is hugely important and companies with strong brands and outreach tend to attract more graduates.
‘Collaboration is the heart of how we work and early stage talent brings fresh energy and renewed passion and enthusiasm for collaboration as well as willingness to connect in a different way to our culture and values’
– VALERIA BANDINO
As Boyd points out, companies with hybrid working models – which is a lot nowadays – need to focus on establishing communities that employees of all levels can engage in and benefit from.
New talent means fresh perspectives
Social connections at work are important, and the talent acquisition teams from employers like Riot Games and Liberty IT are making efforts to recognise this. Diversity and inclusion programmes and employee wellness schemes are important when it comes to attracting and retaining talent and building a good workplace culture overall.
Mostly though, it is important for companies to think about early-stage talent in positive terms as there is a lot to gain from fresh perspectives and innovative thinking.
Bandino finds that new talent can be “open to learning lots of new ways of working” which in turn helps with “optimising new and existing tech and systems”.
“It means we can harness and adapt new technologies quickly. Collaboration is the heart of how we work and early stage talent brings fresh energy and renewed passion and enthusiasm for collaboration as well as willingness to connect in a different way to our culture and values.”
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